The M5 East Motorway is an important link in the Sydney Orbital road network. The intent of the project was to significantly improve access between south western Sydney, the city, and the major industrial and commercial areas of South Sydney. The State Government awarded the tender to build the M5 East to the Baulderstone Hornibrook Bilfinger+Berger Joint Venture in August 1998. A number of important improvements were made to the original proposal after extensive community consultation. The Roads and Traffic Authority (now Transport for NSW, formerly Roads and Maritime) was given planning approval to proceed with the project in December 1997 and was subject to over 150 conditions.
The M5 East was a boost for the economy and jobs. The M5 East created about 2000 jobs during the construction.
Construction work was divided into four distinct sections. Each section had its own management structure and defined responsibilities. The sections were the:
Western section, which included:
- King Georges Road interchange
- Kingsgrove Road on and off ramps
- Bexley Road on and off ramps
- two bridge underpasses (King Georges Road and Coolangatta Road)
- four pedestrian/cycle underpasses
- two bridges for separate carriageways over Kingsgrove Road
- a major diversion and widening of the Wolli Creek channel.
Main tunnel section, which included:
- two 10 kilometre parallel tunnels under Arncliffe and Bardwell Valley
- 36 cross passages
- the tunnel ventilation intake and exhaust structures.
Marsh Street section, which included:
- the cut and cover tunnel work at the eastern portal across Marsh and West Botany Streets, Arncliffe
- widening and upgrade of Marsh Street to a full diamond signalled interchange for the intersection with the motorway
- the M5 East Motorway Control Centre
- an off ramp and intersection at Princes Highway, Arncliffe
Eastern section, which included:
- a 300 metre viaduct over the environmentally sensitive Eve Street Wetlands and heritage-listed Arncliffe Sewage Aqueduct (constructed in 1895)
- the cut and cover tunnel work for the 500 metre tunnel under the Cooks River
- a 600 metre viaduct over a section of the Cooks River and General Holmes Drive.
M5 East was opened to traffic in December 2001. The motorway has reduced traffic congestion in residential areas, improved traffic flow, and removed heavy vehicles from key local roads, with safety, noise and improved air quality benefits for the community.